MicrobeWorld App

appsquarebannerad200x200

ASM Fellowships

Fellowship

Microbes After Hours

Watter-Supply-200x200-Banner

Click for more "Microbes After Hours" videos

Join MicrobeWorld

Subscribe via Email

subscribe

Featured Image

Featured Video

Ebola Virus explained

Supporters

ASM House 200X200

Bacteria seem to be doing a good cleanup job in gulf

Image
As efforts continue to clean the oil that gushed from the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists has found that nature's microbial helpers are hard at work too — and doing a better job than researchers had expected.

Data collected in May and June showed populations of carbon-eating bacteria were increasing in parts of a plume of oil drifting in deep water in the gulf, said lead author Terry Hazen, head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's ecology department.
Advertisement

"Within the last few weeks we've gone back and can find bacteria … but do not see detectable oil," Hazen said. The most likely reason, he added, is that the voracious bugs ate it.

Now, he said, "since they no longer have the oil, they're eating their [dead] brethren."

The study, published online Tuesday in the journal Science, examined the deep-sea plume of oil 3,600 feet below the surface and up to six miles from the leaking wellhead. The scientists scooped seawater from different points within the plume as well as outside of it.

They assessed the mass of bacteria in their samples several ways: by counting cells under microscopes; measuring how much oxygen was depleted from the water, a sign of active microbial life; and by measuringchemicals called phospholipids (found in bacterial cell membranes).

The researchers also used DNA analysis to identify the types of bacteria they found.

Bacterial populations were low outside the plume, Hazen said, but were 100 times denser in oily areas. Within those prospering colonies, the bacteria that dominated were bugs that had genes for consuming oil.

The DNA of one particular carbon-eater — closely related to a group of bacteria called Oceanospirillales — was found in just 5% of the bugs in a control sample of unpolluted seawater, but more than 90% of the plume-dwelling populations.
 
 

Comments (1)

  1. This has shown again the tremendous potential of microbes, especially the bacteria as bioremediation agent. It has saved millions of Dollars that would have been used to purchase chemicals dispersants and other depollution agents.

Collections (0)

 

American Society for Microbiology
2012 1752 N Street, N.W. • Washington, DC 20036-2904 • (202) 737-3600
American Society For Microbiology © 2014   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms of Use